Tag Archives: Health

Life in a selfie-free zone

“The self is something that can be seen more accurately from a distance than from close up.”–David Brooks

Imagine if Ansel Adams arrived here in a time machine.

He would encounter a world that turned everything he knew about his art inside out. We’ve turned the power of capturing beauty through a lens of exquisite composition and clarity back onto the one thing that seems to matter more: ourselves.

Selfies make me feel old. From the start, they seemed a touch banal. But hey, they are fun. You huddle up and squeeze into the photo and usually look weird, but it’s OK. It’s a moment to remember. I tried a few here and there, and they all looked bad. My son told me I had to step up my selfie game.

Now they have sticks to hold the camera to a better length. The selfie game is serious. Occasionally, I wander around Facebook–a neighborhood I liken to a crime-riddled war zone where the danger of mental beatings lurk around every corner–and I see people are EFFin serious about their selfies. And why not? Everyone is now the star of their own reality show. Jay Z and Jay T aren’t the only ones looking to elevate their “brand.” Screw that, I’m a brand too mutherf….

Only most of us are not. We are human, not brand. We can be truth, not pose. We can live real lives that are messy and real, not staged for social media viral approval. We can touch a human being, not text one.

Here’s the twist: We are fearfully and wonderfully made, yet that secret concoction that makes us us, isn’t often captured in a selfie.

If we understood our created/evolved/miraculous beauty a bit more, our need to have it reinforced, moment-by-moment with poses and quips and selfie art and like counts and a whole bunch of other chores in a calculated hope to affirm the beauty within, wouldn’t be so compulsive.

We live in a time of epidemic self-focus. Only the lens is not focused inward toward capturing a picture of a true self, but in search of a photo to be dispensed outward for approval of a pretend self. Psychologically this leans toward narcissism, which is rampant in our culture these days. But holistically it is more simple than that. We’ve lost our focus because we are viewing our lives backward. We are Kim Kardashian, not Ansel Adams. As such, we are missing most of the beauty that gives life purpose, both out there and our own, because a selfie is no way to view either.

I felt myself turning the camera of my life around recently. I looked for validation from the other. I saw instead a side of me that needs more work. Focus blurred. My son was right, I need more work in my selfie game, so I turned the camera back around and pointed it out. My moments of suffocation let up, and air came back in. Sad air. But air. Air is good.

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “The question is: How do you succeed in being introspective without being self-absorbed?”

Turn the lens around and try life for a while in a selfie-free zone.

 

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Weighing life’s scales at almost 49

By The Bride

I’m still not sure what hit me or why it hit at the time it did, but I took to my keyboard to capture the emotions welling within me. Life’s been too busy with school and work and family and all the stuff that makes it full and makes me tired. I haven’t written much in a long time. That’s why this burst was so unexpected. I knew I had to get it down. Here’s what I wrote:

I’m almost 49… just shy by four months…I thought my life would have been different somehow.

Instead of starting a new career, I thought I would be ending a long career.

I thought my family would have been closer–coordinating calendars and marking days when we would all gather, immediate and extended, all together, enjoying babies and elders.

I thought, somehow, that I would be enjoying endless vacations to Mexico and Hawaii with my husband…sometimes with the kids, sometimes without.

I thought somehow that I would be smarter, less like a kid and more like an adult. I thought by now, that I wouldn’t be afraid of the ocean or snowboarding. I thought I would still be enjoying happy hours a couple nights a week, knowing that two glasses of wine–and not four or five–is okay.

I thought at 49 with our three oldest children planning weddings, that we would have the financial security to be able to pay for all three weddings.

I thought, somehow, that life would be easier, like Sunday mornings or walks in the park. I thought at almost 49 that I would be comfortable in the skin that I am in right now. That I wouldn’t care about my breasts, my legs, my butt, my arms.

I thought at almost 49 that I would remember where I left my keys instead of remembering every single line of some random ’80s pop hit. It seems that remembering where I left my keys is a little more important right now.

I thought, somehow, that I would be more interested in today than what may…or may not…come tomorrow. I thought, at almost 49, that I wouldn’t be so selfish. I thought I would be more selfless.

I thought, at almost 49, that the people around me would be less judgemental, less mean with their words and anger. That somehow I’d be able to not care about mean words and those that judge me. It wouldn’t matter, so I thought, at almost 49.

I thought that I wouldn’t be scared, at almost 49, of the future and even of death.

I thought God would be present and that I would be present enough to feel His presence. I thought my spiritual journey would be paved with smooth, shiny concrete that I could walk upon with bare feet. I didn’t think my spiritual journey would be paved with rocks and stones so uneven and bumpy that bare feet would hurt walking across the path.

I thought at almost 49 that hot flashes and mood swings would be something still out there in the future. I didn’t think that at almost 49 the hot flashes and mood swings would be hitting me across the face, spreading throughout my entire body, a constant daily, reminder of the change in my age and walk into middle years.

I didn’t expect at almost 49 that I would be applying anti-wrinkle cream and counting gray hairs on my roots. At almost 49, I thought I would be able to stay up past 9 p.m. I didn’t think I would fall asleep on the couch nearly every night, too tired to make it into bed.

I didn’t think this would be me at almost 49.

But.

But, at almost 49, I didn’t think I would be as strong as I am, most times. I didn’t think I would be as funny as I am, most times. I didn’t think I would be as active as I am, most times. I didn’t think that I would laugh out loud, tears falling down my face, most times.

I didn’t think I would be passionate about continuing my education, pursuing a degree that matters, most times.

I didn’t think at almost 49 that I could respect a person as much as I respect my husband, most times. And, that I would be able to call him my best friend. And laugh with him.

I didn’t think at almost 49 that I would think often about my four kids and how proud I am of each of them. Of their lives, the adults they have turned into, the partners they are bringing into the family. At almost 49, I didn’t think that I would want my children to have better lives and be better people than what I imagined I was when I was their age, and I didn’t think knowing this would make as happy as it does.

Just shy of 49, by four months, I didn’t think my life would look like it does now, but at almost 49 I’m happy, most times. And, I’m content with my looks, my sense of humor, my intelligence, most times.

At almost 49 this is what matters, most times.

90 BLANK in 90 days corrects my path

Ever have one of those moments when you look at a picture of you and it seems foreign? Is that me, you think? Do I look like that? I look fatter. I look angrier. I look… ugh.

The discomfit with the outward appearance then causes reflection on all the inner stuff the picture doesn’t show but you know lurks.

I had one of those moments recently. It wasn’t pleasant. I had lost contact with the various touchstones in my life that keep me centered, healthy and grateful. I lost the present with an absurd focus on the future. I lost the me I worked so hard to find.

In rehab terms they call this White Knuckling. For those trying to stay sober, they lose the joy and health that one fueled it and have lost contact with their inner state. Emotionally they are a wreck, imploding and even doing the destructive behaviors they would only do when using or drinking or behaving compulsively. The white knuckles snuck up on me because I didn’t want to drink. At least not yet anyway.

But old habits were returning. Working too much. Compulsive eating. A lack of patience with others. Frustration with myself.

Good habits were fading. In my search for a “new” workout routine, I stopped doing the one thing that really worked for me: yoga. My running declined. My clothes hung poorly off my growing gut and swelling love handles.

In recovery I often wrote a reminder to myself called the four Ps: Positive. Present. Productive. and it’s been so long since I wrote them I forgot the fourth P. That says a lot. I lost one P entirely and two of the other three were fading like the family photo in Back to the Future.

My picture wasn’t an actual photo this time. Usually it is. This time the picture was a living moment. I tried to do yoga again after a layoff of at least a month.

I’m no cover of a Yoga Journal on my best days, but I used to have a good practice. I was told I had some beauty to my practice and I even taught some others with confidence. All of that…. every bit of it… had disappeared when I huffed and puffed and grunted and moaned through a short yoga practice. I stumbled and staggered and strained. Midway through I looked up and caught a glance of my body in the mirror and it hit me.

I was white-knuckling life again. I looked it. I felt it. I could see it. The outward merely reflected the inward chaos.

I was filled with self-loathing.

In recovery when someone relapses the first advice they are often given is get back to a meeting. In fact, we are often told go to 90 meetings in 90 days to re-establish the habits and to make sobriety the intentional priority of each of those 90 days. Everything else comes second.

I hadn’t relapsed and had no intention of doing so. I don’t need a meeting to stay sober. But I needed the intention. I needed the focus and I needed to rebuild the habits that keep me healthy.

So I drafted my own 90 in 90 plan. I call it 90 BLANK in 90 days.

The blank, I realized, involve many things for me.

  • Yoga. A must.
  • Spiritual exercises including quiet prayer and journaling.
  • Healthy exercise
  • A vast decrease of chocolate
  • Gratitude
  • Art, like playing the guitar or working on my novel.
  • Time for others
  • Service
  • Learning Spanish

It’s odd, but all of these things were the touchstones of discipline that I used to get sober, get healthy, and get focused on being a better person with proper priorities. I needed them all back in one way or another if I was going to rid my mind of the self-loathing that had grown.

So I crafted a schedule. I stated the intention of each day going forward. I weaved in the above activities starting with yoga and spiritual disciplines every day. The other stuff weaved in and out, but intentionally so.

The first three days were hell. I hated how bad I felt during yoga. I hated seeing my belly hanging over my waistband. I hated struggling to do poses that had been doable just a few months before.

But I took the advice of my yoga teacher to try to observe myself without judgement.

“Where you are is where you are,” he’d say.

I didn’t want to be where I was, but, for now that was it. I couldn’t change it immediately. But I could return to my practice and know it would recover. I could recover, too.

After two weeks a spiritual mentor checked in. I told her, “I’m much better. Well, that’s not true. I’m much less EFFed. I’m getting better.”

The work continues and will for many more days until I hit the 90. It won’t stop then I realize, but the milestone will be important. I need the achievement of following through. I need to know I did it and will continue to do so.

This life I chose is not a fad. These things I believe are not temporal. Because in the end, I am convinced I didn’t choose it really. God chose me. And to be what She chooses me to be, I have to be the me she chose. The only way to do that is to live as me, every day, with the intention necessary to live it well.

Recovery is an active, present verb in my life and will remain so. I’m not sure I entirely got that before. The whole “one day at a time” thing doesn’t make much sense until you live it, one sober day, one healthy day, one loving day after another until you welcome it.

I wish I hadn’t lost track of these things and wish I didn’t need to also consider my life in recovery. But in seeing myself in the photo for what I was slipping into, I stopped the slide and returned to the disciplines I established. I came home and this home I’ve built is lasting.

For that I am pleased.

I can’t believe its butter

My brother told me a telling story about the last days of his mother-in-law’s life. She was dying from cancer at much too young of an age. My brother went into her refrigerator and saw she was still eating a strange product called “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”

“You can have real butter,” he told her.

But that’s how we viewed such things for far too long as it turns out. We thought food scientists could make better, healthier food than the stuff God had sustained life on this planet with since its first global turn. We thought things like butter were death to us and for years we made it a pariah of food. We thought that eating butter was a treat that a dying woman could afford but the rest of us… not unless we wanted to join her.

We thought wrong, way wrong as it turns out.

For decades we’ve been sold a bill of goods that has cost us billions annually and ruined our health. It’s been one of the worst scams ever perpetuated on the American people.

A new all-encompassing study by the reputable National Institutes of Heath found that a high-fat, low-carb diet “improves nearly every health measurement, from reducing our waistlines to keeping our arteries clear, more than the low-fat diets that have been recommended for generations,” a new story in Men’s Journal reported.

“The medical establishment got it wrong,” a cardiologist said in the article. “Their belief system didn’t pan out.”

Indeed, the results were so sweeping it took everything we’ve ever been told about eating a “low-fat diet,” which often centers on food scientist-created products to artificially remove fat from stuff we now call food, and turned it on its ear.

Another physician said the evidence that saturated fat is bad for your heart has “disintegrated.”

“In fact, a new Annals of Internal Medicine review of 72 studies and hundreds of thousands of subjects found no strong evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease,” the story reports. An NIH researcher said in 25 years of clinical trials there has been virtually no opposition to this finding.

The study is truly a game-changer because not only does it explode the billion-dollar, low-fat, processed-food economy and the artificial weight-loss economy that has directly contributed to the epidemic of obesity our country suffers, but it directly challenges the calorie-counting shibboleth that has stubbornly refused to go away.

Because high-fat foods, i.e. natural foods like avocado, nuts, lean meats and yes, the deliciously extravagant culinary delight we call butter, are high in calories, those treating the human body like a calculator have long said simple math would bring weight loss. For the millions who have tried it, and failed, we know how defeating it can be to watch those calories and reduce the joy of food to a computerized intake system only to see our bellies continue to bulge.

The definite word on this is in: “We no longer think low-fat diets are the answer,” says American Heart Association nutritional committee member, Dr. Linda Van Horn.

The practical application is the millions of dollars that went into funding and researching low-fat, contrived diets are finally flowing toward healthier, organic, local, non-processed and yes, high-fat diets.

It turns out, I had it right when I wrote the secret of how I lost 100 pounds: eat right (which means eat real food) and exercise. No, I didn’t make that up. I’m not Al Gore. But after years and years of never-ending diets when I finally said “EFF That!” and just started eating what I knew was good for me and working out with discipline, the weight came off (helped I’m sure by sobriety for the first time in my life).

But you know who knew it? My Nonie.  Until the day she died at the ripe old age of 95 she never went to a hospital for an illness and refused to eat the crap that everyone around her touted as healthy. She loved butter. She insisted on it. I remember when my Aunt came over and made Pasta de Pesto and refused to put in butter because it was unhealthy. Nonie groused. She didn’t eat it much when the food came. Later she was still grousing.

“It needs butter,” she mumbled.

She was right, in so many ways!

I leave you now with my new favorite recipe that I’ve used a couple of times a week recently to combat the trend toward carbs and sugar in breakfast (like in my favorite granolas or English muffins or even many fruit and yogurt smoothies). I call it Butter Bomb Coffee! But really, it’s no more my invention than eat right and exercise. I got it from an earlier story in Men’s Journal, which made the compelling argument that butter in my morning coffee would quell cravings and give me an energy boost. The Bride and I both tried it and felt the immediate impact! Enjoy!

Butter Bomb Coffee

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Ingredients

  • 12 oz cup of hot coffee
  • 2 pats of butter
  • 1 spoonful of coconut oil
  • dash of cinnamon
  • splash of half and half

Put all ingredients except the coffee in a mug then pour hot coffee over it swirling until its mixed. It’s da bomb!

 

Just breathe: first step toward the God of peace

In the late 1990s my so-called perfect life was anything but. Typical of those like me who were relatively affluent, married, career-oriented, I had the accouterments of success. Outside I looked fine, stylish in fact… maybe even adorned. I had a designer purse and a nice car and my husband at the time worked in a successful family business.

And we were miserable.

My misery manifest itself in anxiety. Panic attacks. Fear. Times when my body rebelled against me. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and prescribed medication. But it was also the first time I began to pay attention to the little things that can make life better. Like air.

Breath.

Breathe in, breathe out. It was good advice then and it remains a go-to-medication now long after I have stopped taking drugs and stopped self-medicating with alcohol.

I realized a long time ago how important deep breathing is for physical and mental health. My journey towards a more healthy well-being started with the introduction of deep breathing. I’d simply start each morning by taking ten long, deep breaths in, followed by a long, slow exhale out. I developed a routine that I continue to this day.

As the stresses in my life increased it became important to introduce other methods that would help alleviate stress. Meditation started to become a leading player in my life. The creation of a space in my home that existed and was free of television and other electronic devices was significant. The space with a comfortable chair and a warm blanket, and included lavender scented candles created an environment that allowed me the ability to live in it for as long as I could spare in any given day. Sometimes that was only five minutes, but it was enough time in that day.

Meditation consisted of me closing myself in that warm, safe environment. With closed eyes, I would begin my deep-breathing and would usually think of one word that was significant to me in that moment. I repeated that word (often times it was the word “peace”) as a way of clearing the space in my brain so that I could focus solely on meditating. This extended the deep-breathing to help relieve my anxiety symptoms.

My deep-breathing techniques have recently been enhanced by my introduction of yoga. I try to practice yoga three times a week for about an hour. Yoga has allowed me to strengthen my body, while also strengthening my mind. Yoga incorporates my deep-breathing and meditation. It has brought these two calming techniques together and taught me how to stay in the moment. It has become a mainstay in my life.

Yoga’s benefits for the mind and body are important for keeping me in control and ensuring that anxiety and stress stay away.

Within these practices of breath, meditation and yoga I have found a greater sense of purpose in prayer. In these times with God I find the root of my anxiety, which grew from the absence of God in my life during those so-called “successful” years. That generalized anxiety was more specific than I ever thought.

First I learned to calm my breath, which helped me calm my mind, which empowered me to calm my body, which infused my soul with the sense of calm that flowed me wholly like a gentle river back into relationship with the God of my youth.

I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. It’s still woven in my DNA and my brain and my biology. I know that’s a part of it. But I also know like all things, there are other parts as well. I don’t worry about a “cure.” Instead I use the anxiety for what it was designed to be, a reminder to stay close to the God who created me.

Whenever I start to lose my way, I can find it again… with that first, long, deep, wonderfully cleansing breath.

Alcohol out, veggies in: My transformation continues

Ever since I have started school I feel as if my whole life has been transformed. At least the seeds of transformation have been planted. The plants are just starting to sprout. I have been on a quest for a healthier lifestyle, which incorporates physical as well as nutritional health.

Sobriety was definitely the first step. It’s hard to believe my one-year anniversary is fast approaching. But this set the stage for all that came next. Now with school I feel as if my feet are firmly planted, and I’m on the right track in this goal of whole health.

To this end, I tracked my food intake for the past two days. The internet has given us so many tools at our disposal to assist in this process. Two of those tools I used to complete this project include www.myfitnesspal.com, the food journal that I chose to complete this project (and will continue to use to assist me with my goals of eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods and exercising for good health). I also used www.choosemyplate.gov to see where I stack up related to the national guidelines of calorie intake for my age and sex.

According to www.choosemyplate.gov the average calorie intake for a 47-year-old woman is 1,800 calories. However, this daily calorie suggestion does not count physical activity. Since I lead an active lifestyle my calorie intake increases. According to my age, sex and the fact that I exercise, moderately at least 5 days a week, my calorie intake can be increased to 2,000 calories each day. My daily calorie intake should include the following five food groups:

  • fruit (at least 1 ½ cups each day)
  • vegetables (at least 2 ½ cups each day)
  • grains (no more than 1 cup each day), protein foods (no more than 6 ounces)
  • dairy (3 cups per day).

After analyzing my diet for the past two days I feel that overall my diet is pretty healthy. I notice that there is always room for improvement. One area that I am going to concentrate on improving for overall better health is to increase my vegetable intake. One of my goals with this is to incorporate more raw vegetables into my diet.

I was inspired while watching the video by raw food experts Chef Matt Amsden and Nutritionalist David Wolfe. Increased energy, better skin health (inside and outside) … why would I not want to try this?

I am also going to work on decreasing my caffeine consumption (and my hubby can tell you all the reason why I wouldn’t want to try this…). I drink way too much coffee. I am really bad at sneaking an iced coffee that I frequently purchase at Starbucks or Dutch Bros. I have not been able to let go of my iced non-fat, sugar-free vanilla lattes despite knowing the fake sugar that lurks inside these drinks.

The point is I can still improve to get to my greater goal of whole, real foods (mostly vegetables), 100% organic and natural. I’ll get there.

Power up with tropical smoothie

I used to love mixing drinks. But now — fast approaching my five-year anniversary of sobriety — I am pretty much relegated to cream in my coffee and a lemon in my club soda. It’s not very exciting.

So on occasion I put a little extra umph in my smoothie making.

Ever since Jamba Juice became a national player, people have flocked to smoothies as a healthy alternative to eating a good way to load up on essential vitamins and other beneficial foods. But most smoothies are also loaded with calories and sugar, which diminishes the benefits significantly. I still love Jamba Juice on occasion but I try to stick to my own smoothies where I can curtail the sugar and push toward a higher balance with increased fats and proteins along with the inevitable carbs.

I do this by infusing the smoothies with vegetables whenever I can. I also never add sweeteners like honey, allowing the fruit to do that work. I use plain Greek yogurt instead of any flavored kind. I also pack in the protein powder and other powerhouse superfoods like flax seeds, chia seeds and others.

It all combines to make a more balanced, effective smoothie that rewards the bride and I after a hard workout or long run.

Here’s the latest one I concocted:

Ingredients:

  • Fresh pineapple
  • frozen mango chunks
  • one banana
  • coconut water
  • grapefruit juice
  • half an avocado
  • chia seeds
  • protein powder
  • dash of salt

Proof God’s a woman: Emmenagogue herbs

Emmenagogue is one of those big words I’m learning in my holistic medicine courses that I can’t pronounce and struggle to understand. But what I did learn about this word is its proof God really is a woman.

Emmenagogue herbs are specific herbs for a women’s reproductive system. It’s amazing, when you think about it: plants grown from dirt — the same stuff God used to create us according to Genesis lore — with the specific purpose of helping ladies fulfill the mandate to “go forth and multiply.” But God in her caring empathy also cooked up some plant life to deal with the discomfort of menstruation and the hot flashes of menopause as well. Seriously, no man — not even God — would think of how necessary relief is in times like these. That’s what my husband would call hoof-to-head focus. God’s a hoof-to-head kind of gal, I’m learning.

herbs

I learned that specific herbs may assist a women for various problems related to the reproductive system. They can assist in stimulating or increasing menstruation flow. But other herbs can prepare a women for childbirth. Still others can assist to heal the body following childbirth.

When a women is pregnant it’s a good time for her to take stock of her lifestyle, and ensure that she is making the best health decisions for her and the growing fetus inside. Many herbs will provide you with the extra vitamin and nutrients that are required for a healthy pregnancy (for example Dandelion and Wild Strawberry will provide a pregnant woman with the daily requirements of iron and folic acid).  In that respect, it is important that she always checks with her healthcare provider if herbs will be used at anytime during pregnancy.

One other note: Just as there are many helpful herbs during a pregnancy there are also herbs that are contraindicated for pregnancy. Herbs like basil, licorice and yarrow should be avoided through breast-feeding.

Do your own personalized research on herbs. I’m learning it’s a good thing to consult a qualified herbalist, be it wanting to avoid a pregnancy, help start one, maintain a healthy one, or just better care for those female-related issues that we all deal with throughout our lifetime. The Big Woman Upstairs, it seems, has us all in mind, after all.

Aromas color my world with invisible art

Scents play such an incredible part in my memory. A smell hits my nose like a surprise, pinging my brain and my memory and activating emotions simultaneously.

I lingered on these aromas during a recent assignment for my aromatherapy class. I was stuck by the power of a scent within my mind and the trigger they are to my memory.

What are your favorite smells? What are the ones you dislike? Connect to the scent and watch how the emotion follows.

Positive Aromas

First smell of rain on pavement – This brings to mind how much I enjoy the changing of the seasons and the happiness that I feel when the first rain hits the dried-out pavement following a very hot summer.

Baby lotion – I love that precious smell that only comes with a newborn baby. That signature aroma is so full of new life, and it brings so many happy thoughts: innocent, new, fragile.

lavender

Lavender –Lavender has a special place in my memory. When I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and experienced daily panic attacks, I first heard of lavender and its calming benefits. This was twenty years ago. I still use lavender constantly for its calming benefits. Whenever I think of taking a bath, lavender is the first thing that I grab to throw into my bath. Now that I have been making my own bath products, I use lavender to scent my bath salts and my body scrub.

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Fresh baked bread – Recently I have grown to love the smell of freshly baking bread. My husband’s own bread from scratch has become a familiar scent of home. I know when I smell his oven baking something up he is happy and he is near and I like the feeling of both. Each week there is a different type of bread, ranging from whole wheat to rosemary. One of my favorites to smell is his banana/peanut butter loaf. The smell of the peanut butter mixed with the rising bread is phenomenal and makes me salivate just thinking of it.

pupkin pie

Cinnamon – The scent of cinnamon makes me think of the holidays, especially pumpkin pie. This past holiday season I tried my hand at baking homemade pumpkin pies. The smell lingered in the kitchen and traveled through to our living room. It lasted the entire evening as we gathered in our small home along with three of our children to celebrate a wonderful holiday.

Tropical scented suntan lotion – Much like how the first rain on dry pavement makes me happy, so does the first application of suntan lotion on my skin. It signifies the start of summer and makes me long for days on our boat at the river. Tropical scented suntan lotion brings back memories of days spent lounging by the pool in Mexico and Hawaii falling asleep to the sound of waves.

Negative Aromas

Cigarette smoke – One of the most negative odors I can think of is that bitter scent of stale cigarette smoke. My mother used to be a chain smoker. Growing up she would smoke around us all day long. I just remember always turning my nose up at the smell of the cigarette smoke. Years later, I remember dating a guy whose mother smoked and noticing the walls and how dirty they were from all of the cigarette smoke inside the house.

Car exhaust – This past week as I’ve been focusing on this project, I have been more aware of the scents around me and how they affect me. Because I jog at least three times a week, I’ve been working on pushing myself a bit further to increase the miles that I run. This week I was aware of how the exhaust from cars affects me as I run down the road. More specifically, running my last mile towards home I struggled with breathing and keeping my pace up. The trucks that passed me on the run and released exhaust made it that much more difficult to complete that final mile. The fumes stuck in my lungs and made me dislike my time jogging that much more.

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Smelly garbage – We compost in our home and the can sits to the side of our stove. If we don’t take it out daily, the scraps start to let us know they are around as uninvited guests. Neglected too long, the smell of mixed fruits and vegetable scraps leaves a rancid stench that drifts through our house.

Vomit – My grandmother had cancer. Our family members took turns staying with her following her chemotherapy treatments. Her vomiting would start late in the day and last all night. I remember having to steady her and keep her clean as she vomited. I remember feeling really helpless and sad to think that she was in so much pain and there was nothing I could do.

Hospital smell – The antiseptic smell that hits you as soon as you walk onto a hospital floor has stuck with me. This same smell is what I remember from my grandmother’s time in the convalescent home. It reminded me of how far she had fallen once she was moved into the home. I was hit again with that helpless feeling and not being able to do anything to help your loved one get better.

Take some time today to smell the world around you and notice the feelings they bring. It will unleash insight you likely weren’t expecting.

Smells are that powerful and yet far too often ignored.

Eating More Vegetables Can Almost Halve Your Risk of Dying | TIME.com

Separating the true benefits of a vegetarian diet as compared to a more inclusive omnivore diet can be emotionally divisive. The logical common ground gives way, far too often, to the weight of the extremes that pushes for an all-or-nothing zeal that borders on fanatical.

Ten years as a journalist and more than 30 years as a liberal Christian (two words not at all in vogue paired together until very recently) has taught me to beware of what I call “religious certitude.” So much hate and damage results. Well the passion folks on both sides of the vegetarian vs. protein diets can quickly slip into a religious certitude that serves few people well.

Should you eat meat? I think it’s the wrong question that too often drags us into tired ruts of hopeless mired wheat and chaff. Separating it in this topic can be easier if the question is changed.

What are the direct benefits of eating more vegetables?

Well, that’s easy. Read on:

We’ve all been told to eat our vegetables, and even if we don’t like it, we know they’re good for us. But a new study shows just how good for our longevity they may be.

Seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day can lower your risk of dying by an astonishing 42%, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The more fruits and vegetables the participants ate, the less likely they were to die at any age, and the protective benefit increased with consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends anywhere between one to two cups of fruit daily and one to three cups of vegetables daily, depending on age and gender. Their slogan follows, “Fruit and veggies — more matters.” Australia advises eating two portions of fruit and five of vegetables, and in the U.K., the slogan is: “5 a day.”

When compared with consuming less than one portion of fruit and vegetables a day, the risk of death by any cause was reduced by 14% by eating one to three portions; 29% for three to five portions; 36% for five to seven portions; and 42% for seven or more. Eating seven or more portions also specifically reduced the risk of dying from cancer by 25%, and heart disease by 31%.

“The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age,” lead study author Oyinlola Oyebode, of University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said in a statement. “Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice, but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”

via Eating More Vegetables Can Almost Halve Your Risk of Dying | TIME.com.

So if you are an omnivore like me, or a vegetarian like many people I respect, or a cattle-raising farmer with an ecological bent like the guy I got my steer from, we can all agree on a simple desire to live better and live longer.

And the evidence is so clear on this point: Eat MORE vegetables, no matter what you eat.